Showing posts with label samurai. Show all posts
Showing posts with label samurai. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Sakurai Family Samurai Mansion


The Sakurai were a samurai family who controlled iron production in an area of Okuizumo in the Chugoku Mountains of Shimane.

Originally from what is now Hiroshima, the family moved here in 1644 from the Kabe district and so were known locally as Kabeya.

Just below the old manor is a modern museum called Kabeya Shuseikan displaying artifacts from the family history.

The main house was built in 1738. The main residence sometimes served as a honjin, a guesthouse for when the Daimyo was traveling in the area

The most notable feature of the manor is the garden, and that will get a full post next....

There were several other samurai families controlling iron production in the region, probably the most important iron-producing region in Japan.

Down the mountains, the Itohara Family Residence is another big samurai manor with a garden and also a museum devoted to tatara iron making.

Near to the Sakurai Residence is more modern version of a tatara forge, and in the town of Yokota is a big museum devoted to tatara and samurai swords

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Tameshigiri Testing a New Samurai Sword


Tameshigiri is the art of testing a new sword. In the good old days this would often be done using the body of an executed criminal, but sometimes on a live criminal.

When this no longer became practical a substitute was discovered that mimicked the properties of human bodies. Wet goza, the reed mats that cover tatami flooring, when wrapped around bamboo, was close to a human limb.

Nowadays Tameshigiri is a kind of an exhibition martial art, but the goza is not wet and is not wrapped around bamboo.

There are a variety of different cuts and arrangements in Tamegishiri. One of the more difficult is called Tsubamegaeshi. A vertical roll of goza is first cut with a 45 degree downward cut from left to right. then followed by an upward 45 degree cut from right to left below the first cut. Then before the cut piece can fall it is cut in half horizontally from left to right, and a final cut on the remaining standing piece of roll is cut horizontally from right to left. All in the blink of an eye. see Photo 3

This video and these photos were taken at a demonstration of Tamegishiri at the Okuizumo Tatara and Sword Museum and the sword master is Mr. Yoshihara.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Matsue Buke Yashiki & Gardens


A Buke Yashiki is best translated as samurai residence, and this one in the castle town of Matsue belonged to middle -ranked samurai.

It is located on the north side of the moat around the castle on what is now called Shiome Nawate, and is close to another former samurai residence that was the home of Lafcadio Hearn.

Starting in 2016 the residence and gardens have been restored bsed upon Meiji-era drawings of the property.

The rear garden is in Izumo style.

It was originally built in 1733 and it is believed that Kobei Shiomi, after whom this street is now named, lived here. Higher ranking samurai lived across the moat within the castle walls.

Prior to the renovations, it actually wasn't much of an attraction, but with now it is well worth a visit.

The previous post in this series on Izumo and Matsue was the nearby Lafcadio Hearn home and garden.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Izushi Samurai Mansion


Called Izushi Karo yashiki on the tourist maps, this is the only remaining samurai residence in the former castle town of Izushi in northern Hyogo.

Located close to where the castle stood, the area where the highest-ranked samurai resided, it is now open as a museum displaying artifacts connected to the ruling clan of Izushi.

Though it looks like a single storey structure, it actually has a low second floor, a much remarked upon feature in the explanations about the house.

It is located next to the town tourist information office, and close to the castle ruins and the main street, so gets a lot of visitors.

It very much looks and feels like a museum rather than a residence, and architecturally it is nothing noteworthy, but its worth a visit for the displays....

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Nakane Samurai Residence & Garden in Kitsuki

Nakane Samurai Residence

The castle town of Kitsuki in Oita is yet another of the small towns in Japan that have chosen to label themselves as "Little Kyoto". The castle claims to be the smallest in Japan and the town that grew up around the castle is organized in an unusual way due to the lay of the land.

There are two bluff, kind of small plateaus with  steep slopes that in places are cliffs. It bwas on top of these that the samurai built their homes as a defensive location. The narrow strip of land between these two strips of high ground is where the merchants and lower class townspeople lived and worked.

Atop the southern bluff, closest to the castle, is the former home of the Nakane family who were, I believe, the highest-ranked of the retainers to the castle lord. As befitting their status the Nakane had quite a rage garden.

When I visited the house was occupied by a kimono rental company and was therefor free to enter and explore. It seems the kimono rental has moved to a different location and now the house is just an open house but remains free to enter.

It seesm thatdressing up in kimono to explore the town gives you free entry to all the samurai houses, museums etc in the town.

The northern bluff is actually very well preserved with many former samurai houses open to the public and is a Historic Preservation District. Many of the houses also have quite nice traditional gardens.

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Thursday, August 26, 2021

Itohara Residence


The Itohara were a family of high-ranking samurai who served the Matsue Domain. They moved into the Okuizumo area in the Chugoku Mountains in what is now Shimane in the early 17th century. They have occupied the site of their current home since the end of the 18th century.

The Itohara were one of a group of samurai families that controlled the production of iron in the region.

The current residence was built in the early 20th century but was built in a traditional style. The family still lives in the house so it is not open to the public, but the garden is and so the interior of the house can be glimpsed.

The home has 40 rooms and covers more than 16,000 square meters, so here you can literally see just glimpses.

The main formal garden is viewable from many rooms, and I posted pictures of it before.

Adjacent to the house is the Itohara Memorial Museum that has many displays about the historical production of iron, but also family heirlooms like weapons, armour, tea ceremony utensils, clothing etc.

The closest station is Yokota on the JR Kisuki Line, accessible using the Orochi Tourist Train.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Itohara Memorial Museum

Itohara Memorial Museum

Itohara Memorial Museum.

The Itohara were a family of high-ranking samurai in the service of the Matsue Domain during the Edo Period. Their base was in the mountains of Okuizumo where they were one of several samurai families that controlled the production, and export, of iron.

Itohara Memorial Museum.

The museum at their property near Yokota display many of their artworks, everyday objects, and especially tea ceremony paraphernalia, armor, swords etc as befitting a high-ranking samurai family, but is mostly concerned with the historical production of iron.

Exhibit at the museum.

Japan had very little iron-ore, but some areas, like here in Okuizumo, were rich in iron-sand, and a special type of forge technology was used to process the sand into iron and steel called a tatara forge.

Itohara Memorial Museum.

Part of the output of a tatara forge is a kind of iron called tamahagane in Japanese. This is a vital ingredient in a true Japanese sword and cannot be produced by modern methods, so one single tatra forge is still in operation here in Okuizumo that produces all the tamahagane for swordsmiths.


There is a lot of material on display about historical tatara and such, and quite a lot of samurai possessions and artworks, kimonos etc, however very little info is in English.


The Itohara estate is a few miles from Izumo-Yokota Station on the JR Kisuki Line. Other related posts about Okuizumo can be found by clicking this link.

Itohara Memorial Museum.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Kitsuki Samurai House Exteriors


In the small castle town of Kitsuki in Oita there is a well preserved former samurai district with some of the Edo Period samurai residences open to the public.

In this area resided the higher ranking samurai so their homes were relatively large and luxurious. A couple are still thatched but most have tile roofs.

This is one of the more than 100 preservation districts in japan where enough buildings and infrastructure from historical times still exist to be able to give an iression on how things looked back then....

Later I will post photos of the interiors of these houses. Related posts are......  Kitsuki Samurai District, Kitsuki Samurai Gardens, and  Kitsuki Castle.